Mountain Man: Three Women, In Perfect Harmony Mountain Man is a minimalist vocal trio whose unadorned close harmonies are creating an Internet buzz; its debut album, Made the Harbor, comes out July 20. NPR's Lars Hoel interviews the three women about their quick entry into the spotlight; they also perform two of their songs in the studio.

Mountain Man: Three Women, In Perfect Harmony

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Reporter Lars Hoel spent a day with the members of Mountain Man and discovered their name is not the only thing that's unconventional.

LARS HOEL: When most bands go through a sound check before a show, they take their time. But Mountain Man isn't most bands. Here at the Mercury Lounge in Manhattan, they breeze through in just about 10 minutes.


MOUNTAIN MAN: (Singing) (Unintelligible) I sing a song to thee. Oh, my sweet, honey bee. (Unintelligible) I sing a song to thee. Oh, my sweet, honey bee.

MAN: That sounds great.

HOEL: They met a little over a year ago at Bennington College in Vermont. Molly had taken a semester off but returned to visit some friends. One day, Amelia heard music coming from the living room of her group house. It was Molly singing one of her own songs. Amelia says at that moment she knew exactly what to do.

MAN: Yeah, I had her come up to my room, and then I had her sing it about 13 or 14 times until I memorized it. And then I taught it to Alex. And so then Alex and I knew it and when Molly came back to school, we all like...

MAN: We just voomed.

MAN: Yeah, we voomed.

HOEL: Despite all that's happened, Alex, Molly and Amelia still remember what it felt like that first time they sang together.

MAN: Just feeling each others voices vibrating...

MAN: Yeah.

MAN: our own bodies and filling the room up. And it was a feeling of like total elation.

MAN: Yeah.

MAN: And I remember I was...

MAN: And surprise.

MAN: Yeah, really high.

MAN: Total shock.

MAN: Yeah.

MAN: Yeah.

MAN: Yeah.


MAN: (Singing) All of them. All of them have seen inside my mouth, have grown and flown south. Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah. Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah...

HOEL: All the songs except for one on the new album are Mountain Man originals. The sound is so pure, the harmonies so focused and austere that it's tempting to wonder if they all have perfect pitch. Molly says they don't and she adds that sense of pitch is really beside the point.

MAN: I think our voices also really compliment each other, like the way the vibrations move together creates a sound that feels full.

MAN: Yeah, weird. It's not a really a question of pitch because we write all the music by singing together. We never really write it down.


MAN: (Singing) And the sweat will roll down our backs. And we'll follow animal tracks to a tree in the woods and a hole in the leaves, we'll see the bright baby eyes of a chickadee.

HOEL: During their U.K. tour, Mountain Man stopped by the studios of BBC 6, where host Marc Riley proposed his own theory.

MAN: And you do have guitar on some of your tunes. But at one point in time, was there an actual Mountain Man who just couldn't sing properly and got kicked out?


MAN: Is only ever been the three of you?

MAN: Never, nope.

MAN: Yeah.

MAN: Mm-hmm.

MAN: Okay, so how...

HOEL: In the NPR studio, Alex has a different answer to this question.

MAN: Gender and the relationships between men and women and how we treat one another are things that we sing about a lot, and think about and talk about a lot amongst ourselves. And I feel like the name Mountain Man is this mysterious entity that's like the male counterpart to us, and it brings gender to the forefront of what we're doing - I hope.


HOEL: Equal numbers of men and women are waiting in line to hear Mountain Man at the Mercury Lounge. Even though the show is at the very unhip hour of 7:00 P.M., the room is packed. Everyone stands. And, as usual for a Mountain Man show, everyone is quiet.


MAN: (Singing) Oh, my sweet, honey bee. You are the one we've been waiting for. You are the dark. You are the void. So sit, my dear. And please prepare, sitting in golden air...

HOEL: For NPR News, I'm Lars Hoel.

MAN: (Singing) Oh, my sweet, honey bee...

HANSEN: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

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